It is without a doubt the biggest Hollywood divorce story since Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes ended their marriage in 2012: Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are calling it quits. Ms. Jolie has filed for divorce from Mr. Pitt, and she is petitioning for the physical custody of their six children. The couple have agreed to a temporary custody arrangement that was crafted by the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS). The agreement involves therapists and requires random drug testing.

It is too early to tell if the Pitt-Jolie divorce is going to be quiet or contentious. Since both stars possess plenty of property and wealth, the kids will almost certainly be the focus of any dispute. DCFS made the temporary custody recommendations and gave the couple only two options – agree to the recommendations or take the whole matter to court. These are the terms of the temporary agreement:

  • Ms. Jolie has temporary physical custody of the six children through October 20.
  • Mr. Pitt gets visitation, but a therapist must be present at the initial visit, and the therapist may then decide if Mr. Pitt can have unmonitored visitation.
  • Mr. Pitt is subject to random drug and alcohol testing. TMZ says that his first test was negative for drugs and alcohol.
  • Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie will each receive individual counseling, and the family will undergo family counseling together.

TMZ says that Ms. Jolie agreed to the arrangement because her focus is on “healing” her family and her children. It is only a temporary agreement, however. By the time you are reading this, DCFS could amend the agreement or turn the whole matter over to the courts. During this time, and behind the scenes, Mr. Pitt, 52, and Ms. Jolie, 41, are having “productive discussions” regarding the custody of the children, according to ET Online.

WHAT WILL THE COURTS WANT TO SEE?

One Los Angeles County divorce attorney told HollywoodLife.com, “The fact that things have quieted down is a good sign for everyone.” That lawyer says that the final parenting plan may “involve mediators, parenting plan coordinators and other mental health professionals too, making sure that all parties’ needs are met. At the end of the day any judge or court wants to see that the children involved are being properly taken care of throughout the legal process.”

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The children are reportedly at a rented home in Malibu with their mother as the divorce process unfolds. The media and internet have been filled with speculation about why Ms. Jolie has chosen divorce. Unconfirmed rumors spread by the news media – and now also by the social media – make celebrity divorces far messier and much more complicated than the divorces of couples who are not public celebrities.

Speaking of regular, not-famous people, if you are divorcing or anticipating a divorce in southern California, before you take any legal measures, you should speak with an experienced Los Angeles County divorce attorney. Ms. Jolie and Mr. Pitt will very likely want to resolve any disputes swiftly and quietly, and they will be able to do that under California’s no-fault divorce laws.

Family law in the state of California does not force you to retain an attorney’s help in a divorce proceeding. You may represent yourself, but it is not a very good idea. Divorcing couples in California should also consider arbitration, mediation, or collaborative divorce. Especially when a divorce is uncontested, these options can save both spouses time, money, and considerable emotional grief.

WHAT DOES JOINT LEGAL CUSTODY ACHIEVE?

If the final parenting arrangement includes joint legal custody, both parents will have the right to make decisions about the children’s residences, healthcare, education, and religious training. “That’s secure and it’s healthier for the kids,” one Los Angeles family lawyer told the Los Angeles Times. The couple’s oldest son, Maddox Jolie-Pitt, is 15 years old, and at that age he may spell out his own wishes regarding custody to the judge. If his wishes are rational and reasonable, under California law they must be considered – along with a number of other factors – by the court.

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Before they wed – only two years back – Mr. Pitt and Ms. Jolie had three of their own children, and they also adopted children from Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Cambodia. Ms. Jolie is a special envoy for the United Nations, and Mr. Pitt has been a vocal advocate for same-sex marriage and has contributed considerably to disaster relief efforts in Haiti, New Orleans, and other spots around the world. He released this statement to People magazine: “I am very saddened by this, but what matters most now is the well-being of our kids. I kindly ask the press to give them the space they deserve during this challenging time.”

IS BRAD PITT UNDER INVESTIGATION?

The Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services will not confirm or deny if Brad Pitt is under investigation. “We have very strict confidentiality laws that don’t allow us to confirm or deny the subjects of our investigations,” spokesperson Amara Suarez told HollywoodReporter.com. Sgt. Barry Montgomery of the L.A. Police Department said on September 22 that the LAPD is also not investing Mr. Pitt. Sgt. Montgomery said, “We understand how rumors get spun up, and hopefully we can put a few of them to rest.”

Nonetheless, a number of reports have surfaced about Ms. Jolie claiming Mr. Pitt was abusive to their oldest son on a recent flight from France, and because it happened in the air, the FBI is determining if its agents should investigate. An FBI spokesperson told HollywoodReporter.com that, “In response to your inquiry regarding allegations within the special aircraft jurisdiction of the United States; specifically, an aircraft carrying Mr. Brad Pitt and his children, the FBI is continuing to gather facts and will evaluate whether an investigation at the federal level will be pursued.”

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Before World War Two, divorce was rare – even in Hollywood. Most spouses with marriage troubles did not even bother to go to court. Those couples lived unhappily, together or apart, because only wealthy couples could afford divorce. Fortunately, those times are over for all of us. Today there is no reason for anyone, whether you are a movie star or you clean a movie star’s home, to stay in a failed, hopeless marriage.